I’m an Alex boy, but one of the most talked about subjects at Networking Meetings is Women’s Only Networking Groups

I know many people who attend Women’s Only Networking and get value from it and I know many Women in Business who much prefer mixed networking events

Below are the For and Against cases for Women Only Networking groups by 2 leading ladies in Business – Sue Weighell (Finance Director and chair of the National Women’s Network) and Ruth Tibbett (Family Lawyer at Dunne & Gray)

After reading both cases we’d love to hear your opinions in the comments section

Sue Weighell

I believe that women only networking has an important place in the development of our business women. That is not to say that mixed networking should be ignored. Women network very differently to men and tend to spend more time finding out about a person. I often see that women look to see how they can help others as well as help themselves. They naturally want to support each other and this is a great benefit to those who work alone in their businesses.

I have been to many networking events over the past five years when I decided to venture out of my accountancy box! That was my office that I very rarely left and it was like a box. But I decided I needed to get out and talk to the world. It was scary so my first inclination was to find a women’s group to dip my toe in the water. I didn’t look back. That first group was NWN North West (National Women’s Network) and I now chair that group. I also chair Handbags & Briefcases, another women only group.

I have learnt my networking skills in a supportive environment and can now face the world with confidence in my networking skills. 2007 – Go to a meeting where I knew no one? Never! 2013 – I’ll go anywhere and talk to anyone – both women only and mixed events.

My experience has been that networking with women goes beyond pure business and great friends are made. Business problems are shared and you are not judged. Advice and support is freely given.

Personally, in my business I work with more men than women. I come from a male orientated profession – accountancy – women were very much a minority when I trained. So women only networking gives me a balance. Try it, you might enjoy it.

Sue Weighell is a Finance Director, and also chair of the National Women’s Network –

Ruth Tibbett
As a family lawyer setting up a new department in Altrincham I have been researching the networking opportunities locally and I have to confess to a wry smile about women only events. We spend so much of our lives arguing for equal opportunities and rights and as business women we have all forged ahead regardless of any prejudices we meet along the way. It seems bizarre to then focus on women only networking potentially blocking out half our potential contacts and markets. Imagine the outcry if men insisted on men only networking, we would all be picketing with placards!

We object to men only clubs, girls can now join the scouts, women are involved in all kinds of sports including boxing and England has a womens football team and golfing team that do very well. We have high level women judges and women at high levels in other walks of life. We have made inroads in to all areas and I don’t see why we feel the need for our own special support. Historically there was good reason but just as men have had to relinquish their male only clubs I am surprised that we don’t have men objecting to women only networking and demanding to be involved.

I confess though that it is nice to team up with a ” bunch of girls” like minded and professional without any men trying to take over but should we not continue to take ourselves forward as a team of people instead of as a separate group. Otherwise it seems to me we promote segregation rather than integration.

Ruth Tibbett is a family lawyer at Dunne & Gray –



recommend to friends
  • gplus
  • pinterest

About the Author

Alex McCann

Alex McCann runs Altrincham HQ - a Social Media Marketing company with 100+ recommendations on Linkedin and ranked Number 1 for Social Media Marketing in the UK on Freeindex


  1. Linda O’Neil
    10 October, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Whilst I agree with some of what Ruth says, she only puts the case for equality and trying not to separate the sexes as though they were different species (room for a separate debate there, I suspect). She says there’d be an outcry if men networked without women – but that’s what such groups as the Masons have been doing for over a century.

    My own view is that, so long as women don’t stick to women-only networking alone, ie they have a healthy balance in their business meetings/conversations, there is a place for both types of networking and both should be embraced.

    Some women, as Sue mentioned, are quite nervous of their first foray into networking and can find mixed company – where men are often more keen to find out what a newcomer does and to move on if they hold no interest for them – quite daunting. Women-only networks, therefore, are a ‘safe place’ for them to get used to the whole concept before moving on to mixed groups.

    Whilst women-only networking may feel safer for some women, let’s not discount the other 50% of the potential customers, suppliers and advisers who are out there and let’s meet and learn from them all.

  2. Pam Case
    30 October, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Both Ruth and Linda make some excellent points.

    Linda is correct that some women are nervous about networking with men but I think if they’re going to run a business they have to get over it and, as she says “Not stick only to single gender networking”.

    “Men in suits can be scary” is what I often hear. Good job the suffragettes weren’t afraid of men in UNIFORM despite being manhandled by them and thrown into prison. If they knew that today we were still hiding behind our handbags I wonder what they’d think?

    When I’ve had this conversation with men, they LAUGH at women’s networking. Nothing is more guaranteed to stop men in business from taking us seriously. Yes, the Freemasons have had single sex clubs for years – but then so have the order of Lady Freemasons. They’re a bad example and it doesn’t make it okay for any other section of society to follow.

    I’ve been networking very successfully for around 6 years and have never yet experienced any difference in the way men and women network. I’ve seen just as many women ‘walk away’ if your business doesn’t seem to interest them – they are simply people who do not ‘get’ networking whatever gender they are – and therefore not worth wasting your time on.

    If we women DO network better – then the men out there NEED us to mix with them and show them how it’s done.

    I will continue to attend some ladies only networking – if I see BUSINESS being passed alongside the jewellery and handbag stalls.

    Having said all that I do have ONE positive – often women are the child-carers and can’t do early morning networking. Ladies’ groups tend to take place late morning or lunchtime. Now THERE’s a legitimate reason.

    Good luck to all ladies who choose the single-gender networking path for whatever reason – if there’s was no need for it – ladies only groups wouldn’t exist. It will be a very sad day when men only business networking starts up though – we won’t have a leg to stand on.

  3. Paul Iddon
    2 January, 2014 at 11:59 am

    I find it really interesting that this seems to be a generational issue. My kids (24 boy and 22 girl) don’t seem to have these gender hangups. It seems to be a product of thinking of people 35+ – presumably based on a more sexist environment. Division by gender and the kind of assumptions being discussed are old ideas that should be consigned to the past. Also artificially creating such barriers says a great deal about the mindset of those who propose them and would be perceived badly by decision makers and advocates I believe. The whole idea sounds defensive and divisive.

  4. Pingback: Same Gender V Mixed Gender Networking | Behind Closed Doors

Leave comment